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Two Weeks Of NFL Football In the Books

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            <span style="TEXT-DECORATION: underline;">TWO WEEKS DOWN, PLENTY OF EXCITING FOOTBALL AHEAD!</span>   

Two weeks into the 2009 NFL season, nine teams find themselves undefeated at 2-0. Of those nine clubs, four – Denver, New Orleans, New York Jets and San Francisco – did not make the playoffs last year.

But, of course, there is plenty of football left. "This thing is a marathon," says Saints fullback Heath Evans. Since realignment in 2002, 48 of the 84 playoff teams (57.1 percent) began the year at either 1-1 or 0-2. Four of the past eight Super Bowl champions began their seasons with a 1-1 or 0-2 record.

History shows that 0-2 teams advance to the playoffs more often than people might think. Since 1990, 22 teams have started 0-2 and still qualified for the postseason, including three teams last year – Miami, Minnesota and San Diego. The 2007 New York Giants started 0-2 but rebounded to win Super Bowl XLII, joining the 1993 Dallas Cowboys and 2001 New England Patriots as teams since 1990 to win the Super Bowl after an 0-2 start. Hope is alive in the unpredictable NFL.

It's two weeks down – but there is a long way to go. And what a Week 2 it was!

Among the highlights from the second week of the NFL season: Arizona QB Kurt Warner set an NFL record by completing 92.3 percent of his passes (24 of 26)…New Orleans QB Drew Brees threw three TDs and has nine touchdown passes this season, tied for the most in NFL history for a season's first two weeks (Charley Johnson, 1965)…the Saints scored 48 points and became the fourth NFL team in history, and the first since the 1968 Oakland Raiders, to score at least 45 points in each of the first two games of a season…San Francisco RB Frank Gore had TD runs of 79 and 80 yards to join Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders as the only players with two 75 yard rush TDs in a game…Tennessee RB Chris Johnson became the first player in NFL history with a 90-yard rush TD (91), 60-yard receiving TD (69) and another 50-yard rush TD (57) in a game.

What's in store for us this week?

Here's a look at a few interesting storylines heading into Week 3:

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (2-0) at BUFFALO BILLS (1-1) (Sunday, FOX, 3:05 PM CT)

The undefeated Saints head right back out on the road again this week after traveling to the northeat last weekend and defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, 48-22, at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Bills, meanwhile, bounced back from a heart-breaking loss on the opening Monday Night Football game of the season in New England, and bounced back in a big way, dropping the NFC South's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 33-20, at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park.

"2-0 is a nice start, but it doesn't guarantee you of anything," said Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, who is off to his second 2-0 start in four seasons at the helm of the Black-and-Gold. "Buffalo is a tough place to play and they are a resilient team and had a good game last week after a tough loss there on Monday night. We need to have a good week of practice and preparation and make sure our game plan is sound before we head up there. We know we are facing a really good ballclub."

The Saints have not played in Buffalo in the regular season since opening day of the 2001 season, a game the Saints won, 24-6.  The last time the two teams squared off against each other was in 2005 when the Saints hosted the Bills in San Antonio after being forced out of New Orleans due to Hurrican Katrina.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-0) at MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-0) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)

Two of the NFL's 2-0 teams will meet in Minnesota as the 49ers face the Vikings.

"We're not satisfied with being 2-0," says 49ers head coach MIKE SINGLETARY. "We want to be a team that really makes a difference. That's what we want to be and that's what we're going for."

San Francisco has started the season with two division victories and the team has won six of its past seven under Singletary. QB SHAUN HILL, who was originally signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2002, has posted a 9-3 (.750) record as a starter. Minnesota has won 17 of its past 22 home openers and veteran QB BRETT FAVRE has won his first two starts wearing purple. He has an 11-2 (.846) record against the 49ers, including the playoffs.

But the story here will be the Pro Bowl running backs:

49ers RB FRANK GORE rushed for 207 yards last week and had a career-high 246 scrimmage yards. His 4,070 rush yards since the start of the 2006 season are the most in the NFL. Vikings RB ADRIAN PETERSON leads the league with 3,373 rushing yards since entering the NFL in 2007 and has won the NFC rushing crown in each of his first two seasons. Through the first two weeks, Peterson (272) and Gore (237) are the top two rushers in the NFC.

TENNESSEE TITANS (0-2) at NEW YORK JETS (2-0) (Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)

The Jets are flying high after last week's 16-9 victory over New England while the Titans are looking to regain some of their magic of 2008.

Last season, Tennessee started 10-0 before suffering its first loss of the season to the Jets. This year, the Titans will look to return the favor by pinning the first "L" on New York's ledger.

The Jets are led by head coach REX RYAN's defense, which has yet to allow a TD, and rookie QB MARK SANCHEZ, who is just the fourth quarterback in the past 40 seasons to start and win his team's first two games in his rookie year. "We're a good football team," says Ryan. "And we're playing like Jets. Our whole football team is."

The New York defense, ranked No. 1 overall, will face Titans RB CHRIS JOHNSON, who last week accumulated 284 scrimmage yards (197 rushing, 87 receiving) and three touchdowns, all over 55 yards. "Chris Johnson's performance was historic," says Tennessee head coach JEFF FISHER. "That was a tremendous effort."

The game is one of 16 AFL Legacy Games, which will celebrate the AFL's 50th season.

ATLANTA FALCONS (2-0) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (1-1) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Falcons QB MATT RYAN, who posted a 25-7 (.781) record at Boston College before being named the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last season.

Atlanta has jumped to a 2-0 start due in large part to the strong play of Ryan. The second-year quarterback threw a career-high three touchdowns last week and the Falcons improved to 7-0 in games when he posts a passer rating of at least 100. Much of his success this season can be attributed to the acquisition of tight end TONY GONZALEZ, who has TD catches in each of his first two games with the team. "Tony makes it pretty easy for a quarterback," says Ryan.

New England will look to bounce back after a tough defeat in Week 2 against the Jets.

The Patriots have won 15 consecutive regular-season games against the NFC and QB TOM BRADY has a career 27-5 (.844) mark in interconference games, including three Super Bowl wins. At home, including the postseason, Brady has amassed a 55-10 (.846) record as New England's starting quarterback.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (2-0) at ARIZONA CARDINALS (1-1) (Sunday, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)

Two of the NFL's best quarterbacks will take center stage in primetime when the defending NFC champion Cardinals host the Colts on Sunday night.

The contest marks the fourth meeting in NFL history between two quarterbacks who have won multiple AP NFL MVP awards. Indianapolis QB PEYTON MANNING was named the MVP in 2003 (co-winner), 2004 and 2008, while Arizona QB KURT WARNER took home the award in 1999 and 2001 with St. Louis.

In NFL history, the two quarterbacks rank among the all-time leaders in numerous categories, including career passer rating (Manning, 2nd, 94.9; Warner, 3rd, 93.8) and completion percentage (Warner, 2nd, 65.5; Manning, 3rd, 64.5).

Both teams come off impressive victories last week. The Cardinals defeated Jacksonville as Warner set an NFL single-game record with a 92.3 completion percentage while the Colts, behind Manning's 303 yards, won at Miami on Monday night despite having the ball for just 14:53, the lowest time of possession for a winning team since the NFL began tracking the statistic in the 1970s.

CAROLINA PANTHERS (0-2) at DALLAS COWBOYS (1-1) (Monday, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)

For the second consecutive week, Cowboys Stadium will host a primetime game.

This past Sunday night, the Cowboys and New York Giants entertained a crowd of 105,121 fans, the most ever for an NFL regular season game, in a contest that featured eight lead changes – the most in a game since September 15, 2002 (Minnesota vs. Buffalo, nine lead changes).

The Cowboys, who have an NFL-best 41 wins on Monday Night Football, will host a 2008 division winner for the second consecutive week as the Panthers, the defending NFC South champions, come to town.

Will the Monday night drama continue this week? The first three MNF games of 2009 have been decided by a total of nine points, the smallest combined margin of victory ever for the first three Monday Night Football games in a season.

NFL FACTOID

CLOSE GAMES: There have been 15 games decided by six points or fewer through Week 2, the second-most such games through a season's first two weeks in NFL history (17, 2000).

2009 WEEK 3 SCHEDULE (SEPTEMBER 27-28)
(All times CT)

Sunday, September 27
Cleveland at Baltimore, 12:00 PM
Washington at Detroit, 12:00 PM
Jacksonville at Houston, 12:00 PM
San Francisco at Minnesota, 12:00 PM
Atlanta at New England, 12:00 PM
Tennessee at N.Y. Jets, 12:00 PM
Kansas City at Philadelphia, 12:00 PM
Green Bay at St. Louis, 12:00 PM
N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay, 12:00 PM
New Orleans at Buffalo, 3:05 PM
Chicago at Seattle, 3:05 PM
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 3:15 PM
Denver at Oakland, 3:15 PM
Miami at San Diego, 3:15 PM
Indianapolis at Arizona, 7:20 PM (NBC)
Carolina at Dallas, 7:30 PM (ESPN)

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